In last week’s Family Legacy Planning email, we encouraged everyone to write a “love letter” (also known as a “legacy letter” or “ethical will”) to future generations.
I use the word “write” intentionally. This is a time when I urge you to put the letter in your own handwriting, even with scratch outs and insertions. Imagine how powerful it would be for future generations to see their ancestor’s words in their own script, written straight from the heart.
There are workshops devoted to writing such ethical wills, but you can sit quietly anywhere and create your own. Let the words flow. Don’t overthink it.
Family legacy consultant Dennis Jaffe speaks of a letter by the matriarch of a wealthy family read each year to G-2 and G-3 at the annual family meeting. Listen to her words:
Greetings to all of you as you gather for the annual family meeting. I want you to think about a paradox—Money is important/Money is not important. There’s a lot of truth in both statements. You’ve come a long way, babies, but remember where you came from—know your roots. T. S. Eliot said, “Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
You need knowledge, wisdom, and vision. It’s our job to be good stewards of the gifts Papa left us. There are pitfalls inherent in having a family business. Be vigilant for the warning signs. I would rather you dismantle the family business than squabble over it.
A legacy letter is your chance to make your estate plan personal. The wills cover important legal matters, but there’s more to an estate plan than legalese. Look for more samples in next week’s email.
Marvin E. Blum
Marvin and Laurie Blum in a “legacy letter” moment in 1998 when son Adam played football and daughter Elizabeth was a cheerleader at Trinity Valley School—“as good as it gets!”